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Patient Education

Bulimia, the “Private Problem”

Not So Private Anymore

If you recognize yourself or someone in your family in this piece, you share a problem with over 500,000 other people. Bulimia.

  • Do you worry about how much you eat—all the time?
  • Do you start a new diet almost every day?
  • Do you perceive everyone else as thinner than you are?
  • Do you make time in the day to eat in solitude—ice cream, doughnuts, pies, cakes, soft drinks—then vomit or take laxatives?

Eating disorders have become so common in this weight-obsessed nation that we’ve been forced to face the facts. Too many young people—and some not so young—are caught up in a cycle of binge eating, then purging, to physically attain some wacky cultural ideal.

“Thin is in.” “You can never be too rich or too thin.” While there may be nothing wrong with thinness, dieting to that end can become obsessive. That’s when your health starts to suffer.

The First Signs

Bulimia is hard to admit. Most victims feel out of control—they want to stop, and can’t. But because bulimia shows in your mouth, your dentist may well be aware of your situation.

Here’s what we see in someone addicted to binge-and-purge cycles.

  • Enamel eaten away on the insides of upper front teeth from daily exposure to stomach acids
  • “Moth-eaten” edges of front teeth
  • Heightened sensitivity to heat and cold
  • Erosion has thinned the tooth enamel so nerves are sensitive
  • Low salivary pH—acidic saliva chemical erosion of enamel around fillings
  • Swollen glands due to vitamin deficiency
  • Soft tissue damage

Bulimia won’t go away in a day. But there is immediate dental help at hand until you get eating patterns under control.

First of all, people who brush their teeth after purging may be making a mistake. Brushing in an acid environment will only embed more acid in tooth enamel. A sodium bicarbonate or simple water rinse may be safer.

Home fluoride treatments can also be prescribed to encourage remineralization of enamel. And there are de-sensitizers to help your teeth stand up to heat and cold.

The reasons for bulimia are many, but can be resolved over time. The important thing: there is help.

Help for Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa & Related Eating Disorders
P.O. Box 5102
Eugene, OR 97405
503-344-1144
http://www.anred.com

Bulimia/Anorexia Self-Help (BASH)
6125 Claytone Avenue – Suite 215
St. Louis, MO 63139
800-227-4785

Center for the Study of Anorexia & Bulimia
1 West 91st Street
New York, NY 10024
212-595-3449
http://www.4woman.gov

National Anorexic Aid Society
1925 East Dublin-Granville Road
Columbus, OH 43229
614-436-1112

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